Making Characters Likable From a Narrative Perspective.
Up until it's Closure, Telltale had a history of making child characters that were...well...unlikable. Take Gabe Garcia for example. Despite the amount of development that his character went through in Episode 5 of ANF, Most Players still couldn't stand him after a mistake he made in Episode 4. Which begs the question; how does Marlon, a character who made far worse mistakes than Gabe, still manage to remain a more likable character in spite of that? It all comes down to the Concept of First Impressions.
First Impressions are very important when it comes to both writing fictional characters and real life scenarios. If you meet somebody in real life who makes a bad first impression, that makes it all the more difficult to get along with them going forward. Gabe did not make a good first impression in the First Episode of ANF due to his brooding, crying, etc; and because of that wound up having a very hard time getting on the player's good side through the rest of the Season. Marlon is just the opposite. He made a good first impression in the First Episode of The Final Season by helping Clem and AJ at the start. So that when the big reveal came at the end of the Episode, some players were STILL willing to forgive him for what he had done.
This is how you write likable characters. You make them as relatable and likable as possible at the start, giving them a good first impression, then focus on the more negative and quirky aspects of their character as the story progresses.
What are you babbling on about?
No....not really. Telltale has been criticized for a lot of things, but that isn't one of them.
I see someone wasn't sittin right with what I said.
Anyway, Marlon gets more slack than Gabe because his wrongdoings made him a tragic "badboy" or whatever, brought more drama to the narrative itself, and got killed off after expressing remorse early enough to make people feel bad about losing him and talk about the potential redemption arc he could've had. Well that and he is in The Final Season with Clementeen being the playable protagonist again after many people didn't like ANF. Poor Gabe got a considerable amount of flack early on, yes, but it wasn't really that dominant either--there was actually a good amount of people who didn't mind or even unironically liked at first. It was the shipping nonsense and later the proven failure of the relationship to choices correlation in the excessively rewritten fourth episode that truly generated most of the negative feelings he gets.
Another example of the first impressions thing is Kenny: he was introduced in the very first episode as more or less just an everyman, then had his characterization march on to include most of his controversial aspects in the following episode. Not to mention having a character like Larry and for some people Lilly around at the time.
However, first impressions isn't always a guarantee, as characters like Nick, David, and on the other end Kate & I guess Eleanor have previously shown, nor should it always be. If anything, having a character people don't like initially make a turn around is arguably more impression and/or productive because it challenges and ideally overcomes their naturally overt biases.
Oh and on the kid characters thing, there was technically already a stigma against them for decades before TWDG came along. And the reason most of them are some measure of controversial is because they want to make Clementine standout by comparison; that's literally at least half the reason Duck exists.
Huh. For me, it seems like kid characters is the one area Telltale seems to get refreshingly right. Not all the time, of course, before I get the pushback. Duck was a bit overly enthusiastic and Sarah was too childish, even in comparison to Clementine, who was only 11 at the time. Gabe was whiny and moody, etc.
But then you have characters like Becca - a girl who tries to put on a tough facade for the apocalypse, acting more aloof and nonchalant than she really is, yet shows her vulnerability when something happens that truly scares her (an unknown blindfolded man possibly being shot in front of her, leaving the gas station and having Roman hunt them down, etc.).
She also makes dumb mistakes, like sneaking out using the loose boards, and performs stupid pranks, like jumping out at Shel and scaring her but those are teenagers. They want to be grown up, because they're in that phase, but they're still kids. A lot of media gets this wrong and portrays teenagers as young adults already when that just isn't the truth.
Clementine already gets praise as a child character but I want to really give them credit for the dignity they gave her as an 8-year-old. For one, she is not stupid. Naive maybe, but not stupid. People forget that kids have a bullshit detector too and Clem definitely has one. She can tell when Lee is lying to her or trying to coddle her and doesn't like to be talked down to. She's able to problem solve (remembering the cane to stick through the doors), contribute where she can, and she can definitely read a room (the REAL reason she pulled Ben away to see a picture she drew was because she wanted to be away from Kenny and Lily's fight). Her reaction to the things happening around and to her has depth. Has range. She doesn't need to be directed around like a puppet either. She will act on her own, even when it's not in her best interest, like trusting the Stranger or crawling prematurely through a doggy door.
I've gushed about AJ as well, but they struck gold with him as well. Though admittedly, he can a bit too mature for his age at time, most of the time it's believable because of the world he's been forced to grow up in. Like Clementine, he can detect bullshit and is in fact, even more blunt in his observations because there's not much room for imagination when survival is at stake. Only the facts. Whether it's confirming that you can't sleep with one eye open because he already tried or refusing to engage in Disco Broccoli's antics because he can't eat a toy. He also has all the flaws of child of horror would have, whether that's a nasty temper, itchy trigger finger, blank moral slate, obstinate defiance, or overactive defensive instincts (biting Ruby and elbowing Marlon in the crotch). He isn't a stick in the mud either though. Deep inside, you see a little boy who honestly wants a childhood. Who smiles when he's allowed to relax and engage in the normal things, like drawing a picture or blowing up a beach ball.
Like Clementine, he's given respect as a CHARACTER just as much as he is a CHILD.
Which is why I was so let down when her and Shel didn't become larger characters in the story, for every reason you said.
This sorta hits where the distinction amongst the writing priorities comes in.
In addition to what I said before, Duck and to an extent Sarah had their flaws played up with relatively limited focus on the brighter aspects of their personalities. Gabe also sorta zigzagged into skimming this territory at a few points, but to be fair, that's partly due to the habitually perplexing choices made with parts of the later episodes; otherwise, they were more than fair when it came to showing different sides of him.
With that said, the likely reason Becca and characters like Alex avoided that issue was simply because little miss mascot wasn't around. Becca was clearly set to be another negative foil for her, after all.
You're preaching to my choir about Gabe and his first impressions. I said the same thing on the subreddit a few weeks ago. For some reason, they thought it was better to present Gabe, a character whom none of us know with more attitude than personality. It just sets him up to fail as a likable character. Not that this is always a failing method, but they didn't do anything to cast off these first impressions.
But I don't really agree with the argument and it's attachment to Marlon. I don't agree that the reason one is favored more as a character than the other is due to their first impressions. It had a bit to do with it I guess, but not all of it. I believe it's due to the differences in their character arc and it's execution.
Gabe's arc was all about maturing, but instead of progressing as a character he was just stuck in a cycle. Attitude > Tantrum > Cool off > Calm before the Storm and goes right back to attitude. He had good moments, but when I remember lines like "I wanna be the one to rescue Dad. I have so many ideas. Give me a gun, and I'll just do whatever." I just sigh and say "what a waste"
In Marlon's case, in one episode, we get a feel for him, learn he keeps pulling back the safe zone, as soon as we exit the safe zone shit goes south, hints of his snapping attitude and why he's truly afraid as well as why he continues to pull back the safe zone and be witness to the complete deterioration of his character. It was just more compelling than having to keep Gabe's puberty in check.
Let’s just all agree to forget about Gabe lmao.
Who the fuck is Gabe?
The one that teaches you how to BeepBeep
I just played S1, S2, and S4. I didn't see him. Is he way in the background like one of those characters that don't add anything to the story?
I think there's some truth to that, but personally I think one of the biggest reasons I was more sympathetic to Marlon than Gabe was Marlon's voice actor, Ray Chase, absolutely sold his performance in Marlon's final scene. He was being a shitty person but the framing, voicework and facial animations really conveyed someone cracking and ultimately breaking under pressure. This made him much easier to sympathize with.
Gabe just always felt like he was being an angsty shithead teenager without the framing giving an excusable reason for it.
I mean, they did give a fair amount of reasons and a few demonstrations for his behavior, when you actually look at it.
It's just not as spaced out or really convenient as that of Marlon.